I wish more of 2021 had looked like this sunrise view across the Borders hills Time for another end of year roundup. You can dive into my past here: 2009 // 2012 // 2013 // 2014 // 2017 // 2018 // 2019 // 2021

Against the epic trudge that was 2021, there have been some fun moments.

Favourite Places:

  • It was fantastic to spend time and explore the area around Achnasheen with particular highlights kayaking at Shieldaig, sailing to Isle Martin, noms from the Midge Bite cafe, a grand hike at the Ben Eighe nature reserve, Gairloch museum in a storm, Diabaig to Craig walk, and M’s first Munro Fionn Bheinn. Our cabin saga continues but I’m hoping that 2022 brings good news on that and much more time will be spent up north! As a result of several trips north it’s also been great to spend time at places on the road - Dunkeld, Hermitage, Tomatin, the Aviemore Reindeer Centre, the Highland Wildlife Park, Dingwall and Rogie Falls (to name but a few!) have all been great stops this year.
  • Once again places nearby and, shock horror, around town have been well visited. Walks with takeaway food at the end have featured a bit too! Mary’s Milk Bar, Mr Eion, Cafe Milk, etc are all wonderful rewards! Porty beach, a 5K in Victoria Park, Starbank Park, Wardie Pier, Platinum Point, Calton Hill, Crammond and slightly further away to Dalkeith Country Park, Penicuik House, the Falkirk Wheel and Jupiter Artland were highlights.
  • Manchester was a fab trip (in what felt like a brief window of covid not being too bad to get away) - great to see friends and a beautiful walk through The Carrs and Quarry Bank Mill.
  • Many trips to Hawick this year - not all for good reasons but always good to see family. Some garden helping was done, but not as much as I’d have liked to have helped with. 
  • Trips to the East Coast were once again much loved - sea swimming, Foxlake (Twice! Once with two injuries! Both with much fun!) and beach walks were all fab.
  • Ben A’An near Callander was a decent hill walk - lots of up in not much time and some good views. 
  • We didn’t camp as much as I’d have liked to this year but camping on the top of Spartleton hill was dreamy - the middle of the night views were stunning!

Favourite Podcasts:

  • 100 Innovations Per Hour has been a surprisingly insightful little blip of a WhatsApp message twice a week - it was amazing to hear about how many innovations I already had on my radar, and fantastic to hear the insights told as part of a collection of many other innovations.
  • Stuff The British Stole is painful to listen to at points - amazing research combined with wonderful storytelling. Well worth a listen. 
  • Darknet Diaries has been a constant over the past year - I took an Open University CyberSecurity course and Darknet Diaries was a significantly better source than some of the materials (not dissing OU, just that DD is so good!)
  • Tunnel 29 was another fantastic bit of storytelling. Much love for Cold War stories as ever and this was well told with just enough dramatisation.
  • Honourable mentions because they are always worthy of a listen: Reply All, 99% Invisible and This American Life.

Films - The Best Of The Bunch:

  • Hamilton truly caught M’s attention and she has listened to the soundtrack incessantly (she’s memorized all the words in the first half by this point) and she (and by extension me) has watched the film 3 or 4 times over!
  • Harry Potter - we did another rewatch - still very enjoyable. 
  • Soul - LOVED the music for this. 
  • Onward - surprisingly good. Not what I expected and I think I enjoyed it as much as M.
  • Beauty & The Beast (live-action) - I liked the original animation when it came out (I was young) and, although it’s not my kind of thing, I was impressed.
  • Thor: Ragnarok - (rewatch) I think the comedy of this movie combined with the wicked soundtrack is on-point.
  • Incredibles 2 - (rewatch) I want their house.
  • Avengers: Endgame - I want their tech. (rewatch. The final battle truly is worthy of the cheering that it got in some cinemas!)
  • Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (rewatch) - a modern classic.
  • Free Guy - an easy movie to watch - it’s so much fun.
  • Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings - low expectations for this one (it’s a bit like a live action Reya & The Last Dragon tbh) but I did enjoy it.
  • Enola Holmes - I’m not sure what the directors thought their audience are given the reading audience of the books (a couple of scenes are too violent IMHO) but the world and the telling from a female perspective was fab.
  • Yesterday - this is one of those movies that had a terrible premise but kinda worked… 
  • tick, tick…BOOM! A tough watch in places. Well made and the storytelling was ace.

Films - Don’t Bother Watching These Ones!:

I’ve taken a start at putting IMDB ratings against my watchlist so that hopefully next year there won’t be as much dross. I’m going to sort the list with some kind of fancy score by how long the thing lasts and how highly rated it is on IMDB - that way I won’t start as many crap TV shows (but might get through one or two good ones) and I should avoid the weak one- and two-star movies. 

  • Kids films: Bolt, Mulan, Frozen 2.
  • Bad rewatches: Dredd (but I love some of the aesthetic), Ghost In The Shell (but I love the Lotus Esprit interior), Prometheus (but I loved much more when it came out).
  • Old films that would have been better if I’d watched them when they came out: Mission To Mars, Constantine.
  • Old films that would not have been better if I’d watched them when they came out: Dune (but I did love Lynch’s sheer dogged determination to capture this thing on film despite so many crimes against plot!)

TV:

  • Only Murders In The Building was such a hook - I thought it was going to be crap but I was sucked in by the end of the first episode!

  • Arcane League Of Legends was a fine bit of sci-fi and as with Marvel’s “What If…” it was enhanced by the animation (Powder’s schizophrenia especially).

  • Loki was good… not movie standard but certainly good.

  • Fear Street - I was a huge Goosebumps reader as a kid and R.L.Stein was an oft-spoken name. This was decent and I like how Netflix plays with what’s a tv show/what’s a movie concept with this one.

Hobbies:

  • Checking the covid stats, doom-scrolling and trying to reorganise cancelled events?! 

  • PM-ing a saga of a cabin build remotely whilst working full-time?!

  • Diary management for a pre-teen and her guinea pigs (+ their holiday logistics)?!

  • I did an OU Cyber Security course… that was interesting! (I passed too - yey)

  • Writing (although I did nowhere near enough - see above!)

  • Exercise, swimming, family walks, husband and wife lunchtime walks (walks A, B or C - Starbank, Wardie or Platinum Point respectively!)

  • Baking bread

Music: Albums/Artists/Songs:

I should caveat that I have listened to very little new music (or very little that I liked, to be more specific) and I know that’s a covid thing but also it’s a covid thing to stick the same old stuff on repeat. Also not cool that as the year went on I had to spend more and more days in back-to-back Teams calls where music didn’t get as much of a chance to soundtrack the day. That said I’ve listened to loads of good stuff, added plenty to my “Ultimate” playlist and have enjoyed some real gems:

  • Bleachers - Chinatown, Goodmorning, and a bunch of other tracks. I’d listened to Bleachers before but somehow never stuck them on repeat. A few very long solo car days this year were the perfect opportunity to pop Jack on and blast up the highway attempting to sing along.

  • Weezer - All My Favourite Songs from OK Human - a peachy little album - very 2020!

  • Lawrence - Hotel TV (and especially Don’t Lose Sight) - and the live videos are pure POWER!

  • The Hamilton Soundtrack - most played by the kid whilst cooking in the kitchen. 

  • Donato Dozzy/Anna Caragnano - Parola (Rework) and Freedom Fighters/Ryanosaurus - Dawn ‘till Dusk are still on the repeat for my headphones on for work playlist.

  • Gattobus - apart from one track on the new album which I hate, the new stuff is great! 

  • Shawn Wasabi & Raychel Jay - The Smile That Smiles Back  - this has been a real earworm recently. Production on this song is on point. 

  • Cory Wong - Light As Anything - this is one of those tracks that Spotify’s random algorithm just keeps insisting on playing… and I do like it!

  • Vangelis - Conquest of Paradise - so much synth love.

  • Taylor Swift - whilst exile (feat. Bon Iver) was my most played track, how can anyone not respect Taylor for doing the impossible and rerecording entire albums, whilst releasing record-breaking new ones, all to regain rights she should legally have. I used to sometimes use the Deadpool “Maximum Effort” mantra when tackling epic tasks but I’m thinking Deadpool should rename the meme as “Taylor Swift Energy”.

  • Evan Olson - So Much Better - go listen to Reply All episode #158.

  • The Mighty Mighty Bosstones - The Final Parade - the rest of the album is a 4 out of 10, this song’s a perfect 10.

  • Jon Batiste - I Need You. Such a happy song!

  • Trent & Atticus - Soul - What a soundtrack!

  • Chvrches - the new album is a solid evolution of their sound.

  • The Mountain Goats - I’ve listened to them before but I guess it took “This Year” to remind me how great they are. “Going Invisible 2” is a class track.

  • Cody Fry - Underground. I heard it on a video and drew me into the back-catalogue. The strings are SO GOOD.

Music: Playlists:

Gigs:

Not a single live gig :( Missed Meute due to the general fear of covid and lack of info from the venue on capacity. :( Maybe next year? I’m booked for Dan Deacon but honestly doubt that it’ll go ahead. I did watch the Weezer livestream - not the same in any way but still a fantastic performance.

Websites & Apps:

Pretty stable list when I compare back through the years:

  • https://www.gov.uk/report-covid19-result - so many times used, especially now that we’re on daily ones now!

  • COVID stats - checked more or less daily as per.

  • 2Do - I need a good to-do app and this has been mine for YEARS (at least six years as far as I can see).

  • Android’s Wellbeing and focus mode - take a technology lover who worked as a social media marketer put them in a pandemic and social media usage will certainly soar… focus mode is working well to curtail that!

  • Streaming services in general but especially Disney+… but OMG the back button is borked on Android. :(

  • Spotify - loving the removal of shuffle for albums and the improvement of the podcast stuff… but wish they’d pay artists more.

  • Glitch.com for its simple website prototyping/building. 

  • Chess - mostly not winning but always learning.

  • Too Good To Go - we’ve used it a fair bit to bring randomness to us during the pandemic. Save food from cafe’s etc who are about to bin it - good for all. 

  • Helping clear parent’s attic - Gumtree and eBay and FB Marketplace were not friends but some kind of partners through the year! 

  • Otter.ai is quite something - automated voice to text isn’t new but this does it especially well.

  • Duolingo - I continue my streak whilst continuing to be fairly crap at all Spanish.

  • The Uvo car app - positive: I can turn on the heater or lock the car from my phone. Negative: the rest of the app is awful, glitchy, requires weird authentication, fails 80% of the time, etc.

  • C:geo for a few geocaches.

  • Protonmail - I finally made the start of a switch to move away from Gmail. And needless to say it’s not as good as Gmail, but it will do. Slow migration will happen over the coming.

  • Airtable for a research project that I’m working on.

YouTubers:

  • Colin Furze - I so want to build an electric drift trike. And if you’ve watched any of the tunnel project videos you’ll know that this is a man who commits to a project 100%.

  • Laura Kampf - maker extraordinaire - M wants to be her and I’m just in awe of her ideas and craftship.

  • Look Mum No Computer - continuing the crafters who GRAFT. The museum is a thing of beauty.

  • Simone Giertz - I realise at this point on the list there’s a theme…

  • Adam Savage… and that theme doesn’t end with Simone. 

  • Steve1989MREInfo - totally different from the above list - this guy just gets/gives so much pleasure from eating military rations, the older the better. 

  • Kirsten Dirksen - I’m guessing anyone on a tiny-house quest will have seen some of these videos. The videography is occasionally clunky but the story of the home is always fantastic.

  • birchpunk - checks all the communist sci-fi boxes.

  • Beau Miles - I realise now that I honour YouTubers and writers who put in their shift and then some. Beau’s storytelling mixing the personal, the cultural, the ecological and the adventure is just wonderful. He’s a true adventurer.

  • CGP Grey - legend.

Books:

Some fab reads this year - mostly old stuff (I’m not very on-trend) but:

  • Amor Towles - A Gentleman in Moscow. Maybe because we were all stuck at home in a lockdown when I was reading this but I thought it was wonderful - I have a soft spot for that time and place in history despite never having been there and very much not having been alive. 

  • Lara Maiklem - Mudlarking This book is amazing - truly worth reading for anyone who loves history or London.

  • Neil Gaiman - Trigger Warning - What could be a better bit of Neil Gaiman than his short stories. The master at work. 

  • Julian Sedgwick - Tsunami Girl. Another book on a tough topic that captures so many feelings.

  • Bill Bryson - At home - It should come as no surprise that the history of our homes is surprisingly fun.

  • Eric Klinenberg - Palaces For The People  - thinking a lot about how to improve our community and country and this book was a good read to frame some of that (our local library is now a covid test centre and has been for a year and a half).

  • Terry Pratchett - I Shall Wear Midnight - hard to listen to at a couple of spots as Terry’s approaching death comes through strongly.

  • Robin Stephens - Mistletoe and Murder - M loved this audiobook and so did I.

  • James S. A. Corey - Leviathan Wakes (pretty crap compared to the show but still a good read).

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